Faith Hedgepeth, UNC student, found dead in her apartment
(CBS) CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Families and friends are mourning over the death of 19-year-old Faith Hedgepeth, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was found dead in her apartment last week. Police said they are investigating the case as a homicide.
Friends said Hedgepeth was a biology major who wanted to be a doctor, CBS affiliate WTVR reports. She had plans to go to medical school after finishing UNC.
But those plans were abruptly halted when friends found Hedgepeth's body in her apartment Friday morning. The Chapel Hill Police Department said they don't believe her death was a random act, and are investigating it as a homicide. The manner and cause of death have not been released.
"I do not see how someone could do this to her," Hedgepeth's aunt, Paige Evans, told CBS affiliate WRAL. "She was intelligent. She had everything going for her. She knew what she wanted in life, and she was going for it."
Hedgepeth was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe of Hollister, an unincorporated community in northeastern N.C. Rev. Ronald Richardson, chief of the Haliwa-Saponi, said Hedgepeth was active in her church and her tribe.
"Faith was very much involved in our tribal culture," he said. "This will reverberate throughout our community for weeks, months and years. This will be difficult to overcome."
Investigators are waiting on a preliminary autopsy report to determine how she died, WRAL reports. A $2,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the case.
While questions remain surrounding her death, friends and family said they want to celebrate Hedgepeth's life and put the focus on who she was.
"In times of disasters and tragic losses, our community comes together to grieve," said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. "I am deeply saddened and sorry for the loss of Faith Danielle Hedgepeth. On behalf of the greater Chapel Hill community, I ask that you join us in remembering Faith's family and her many friends in your thoughts and prayers."
While police are still investigating, the campus community held a candlelight vigil Monday evening in Hedgepeth's honor, according to WRAL. Hedgepeth's family and campus leaders spoke while a cappella and campus music groups provided music. Friends said Hedgepeth was an active volunteer in the Native American community, both on-campus and off.
"I just want people to realize how much she was loved on campus and the impact she had, not only on students here but to students who wanted to come to UNC," Carolina Indian Circle President A.C. Locklear said Monday.
Family friend Sandon Jacobs said the vigil helped "initiate the healing process."
"It's going to be a long road for family, for immediate family, for extended family, the community, the tribe, all the tribes in North Carolina really," Jacobs said.
The Chapel Hill Police Department established a tip-line for anyone with information related to this investigation. Anyone with information is urged to call 919-614-6363. Individuals may also contact Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.
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